Friday, September 22, 2017

Cotton Fields

They can't dig what they can't use, should just stick to themselves, there'd be much less abuse.- Lynyrd Skynyrd

My music career began when I was 23, on a small stage in the community building in Monroe, AR. I stumped onstage (leg was in a cast you know) and sang "In Them Old Cotton Fields Back Home."

All the recent brouhaha over cotton and images/displays of cotton has caused me to wonder if some of us have too much spare time.

But this is not about that.


Whether your daddy farmed or not, if you grew up in the South (and maybe if you didn't) you have memories of cotton fields.

Some of us picked cotton. Some of us played in the cotton trailers, jumping off the sides to sink waist deep in the white fluffy stuff. Maybe you were one of the folks who pulled over next to a field of cotton and had someone snap your picture while you stood out in the middle of it. We actually had one family knock on our door and ask that we take their picture standing in the field. We did.

And the smell. I can't see a picture of a cotton field without remembering the smell.

One more memory. Maybe my fondest.

Somewhere there exists a picture, taken by my mom, of my three oldest girls and their cousins baled off into a cotton trailer full of cotton. And the expression on their faces is priceless.

How could you not smile at that?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

On Turning Fifty

For Kim

I don't really remember my fiftieth birthday.

I'm certain we celebrated with cake and a song. There were the usual cards and jokes about "getting old now."

Those things go with turning fifty. It's universal I suppose. I just don't really remember any of the particulars of the day.

I do remember another celebration of sorts. On October 21, 1976, in a motel outside St. Louis, I observed my dad's fiftieth birthday. I and several other men.

We had come to move a preacher and his family and all their worldly goods. Taking them back to Arkansas to pastor Lexa Baptist Church where my dad was a deacon.

There were maybe eight of us, and I seem to recall that all but one of the men were younger than my father.

Being brothers in Christ, they naturally ragged on Dad about becoming an old codger. He took it in good humor and ragged back, like you do.

I remember it also as being the only time in my adult life that I have shared a bed with another man. Not so strange among a group of guys who had mostly grown up poor, sharing beds with one or more brothers, usually until they married and owned their own beds.

Dad was my bedmate that night and complained next morning of my being all knees and elbows.

He passed on in June, 1998, six months before my own fiftieth birthday. I had thought it would be cool to share that with him as we had shared his, some twenty years previously.

I dare say, oldest daughter, that you don't feel any older than you did the day before your birthday. And certainly, I doubt if you feel "old."

That comes much later, in my experience, and is not really a thing to be dwelt upon overmuch. It's part of life, you know. There's a blessing that goes with it.

Our God never takes anything from our lives without giving something in return. Something always better, always richer, always calling us to remembrance of Him and His goodness.

Part of that is to be increasingly aware of the rising generation, those just starting their lives with their husbands, wives and children.

You've been where they are. You have wisdom to impart, though it will not always be received.

Someone once commented that our lives can seem like utter chaos, seemingly random events unfolding with little time to catch a breath.

Time, and may I add, faith, lend perspective. For the Christian, it is amazing to reflect upon what has been the revealing of God's perfect plan for our lives. Not that we have been perfect, but our Father in heaven certainly is.

So happy belated birthday, Kimbo, and many more.

Here's hoping and praying that your children will celebrate their own fiftieth birthdays in your presence.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Who Am I

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.-Hebrews 4:12

Matthew 7:1 ("Judge not, that you be not judged.") may be the favorite Bible quotation of our day.

"Who am I to judge?" is the question on many lips. A kinder, gentler way, perhaps, of saying "I don't want to get involved."

And "Love your neighbor as yourself." What does that entail?

I would avoid danger. Should I warn my neighbor of the same approaching danger?

So there is this:

John Hendryx' comment on article 10 of the Nashville Statement.

You may read that statement here (and sign it as the Holy Spirit prompts you):

The quote from Ezekiel 3:18 in Hendryx' comment speaks to the Christian person's conscience, as do Paul's words in Romans 1:32.

This is personal, you see, as I have not just a neighbor but a dear loved one with whom I have been having this conversation.

My sin is ever before me, as David reminds us, and at times seems so overwhelming and all-pervasive that I too am tempted to ask: "Who am I to judge?"

But it has been pointed out (though not in the Bible I think) that "sometimes words have two meanings."

So then "to judge" can be to pronounce sentence or condemn. Not my job but God's only.

But "to judge" can also be to discern, to make a distinction. I look at the sky in the morning and may decide to carry an umbrella.

I am bound to speak as one who has been and is continually the recipient of God's love and mercy.

Turn back, turn back.

Pray for my faith, that it not falter and that I not grow weary in my entreaties before God.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

What Adam Saw

Adam was the first musician. I have good reason to believe this.

This past Sunday morning after getting dressed for church, I sat and played the guitar.

As the last notes of the song I was playing faded, I thanked God for the gift of music.

"What if there were no music?" I thought. (You see, like Tiny Tim, I think the strangest things, sitting by myself.)

I tried briefly to imagine such a world and could not. Instead I thought of the birds, God's irrepressible musicians.

Then I thought of Adam, full of the first breath of life, and I'm sure the first sound he heard was the birds singing.

And as he opened his eyes, his first sight was the face of his Maker.

And don't you know his heart filled up with music and he began to sing.

And maybe clap his hands.

And probably dance.

How could it be otherwise?

So I say sing to your Creator, all you people.

Rock on, you children of the Living God!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Dealer, For a Nickel, Lord, Will Sell You Lots of Sweet Dreams

I originally published this on another website. Having had a friend recently commit what may turn out to be a grievous error in purchasing an automobile, I thought this might be useful.

Ever buy a new car?  How was that? Or to put it another way, how long did you stay in love with this shiny new thing that cost nearly as much as your rent each month?

Having been in the auto industry 30-plus years most of it in the dealerships, I have seen a lot of love stories with bad endings.

I found out:

(A) It makes a difference who you buy your car from. The "good" salesmen will take care of you after the purchase should you experience problems. No refunds, mind you, unless the car is truly, truly awful. See the "lemon laws" in your state before shopping. If you don't know a salesman, have a trusted friend recommend one.

(B) It makes a difference who made your car. This is where you need to know (or know someone who knows) a good mechanic. Some auto companies turn out junk on a fairly consistent basis. Ask your mechanic friend which brands he works on most often. Ask him what brand he drives. Or even better, what he has bought for his wife to drive.

(C) It makes a difference whether you plan to trade cars regularly (say every two years) or not. Obviously, any vehicle will break down sooner or later. You can generally avoid the later by trading before later gets here. It helps to know what long term issues you might face with particular makes and models. Your mechanic friend again, right?

(D) I shouldn't have to say this, but you really need to follow the manufacturer's maintenance schedule. If it ain't broke you wouldn't fix it. Neither should you do stupid stuff to tear it up; like not changing the oil.

Which brings us to:

(E) It makes a difference what kind of driver you are. Or the person who will be driving the car. Jackrabbit starts and screeching halts? Not good for the car. Remember, this is an automobile not a tank (except my '68 Ford which I bought in '76 and drove for 11 years on dirt, gravel and paved roads as well as turnrows on the farm.

One more thing. The last auto dealer I worked for made this remark: "You know if I wasn't a car dealer, I would never buy a new car."

Think he knew something?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Shoot That Uppity WHAT?!?

uppity: inclined to be self-assertive; assuming; pretentious; snobbish- Webster's Dictionary of the English Language

Surprised to find THAT in the dictionary, huh?

To be honest. I had only heard it used in conjunction with another word (a racial pejorative). See: "Blazing Saddles," the part where Taggart admits depression and Lyle proposes a solution).

I find it (uppity) to be racist and offensive.

But not for the reasons most might think.

Given the context (the South of my childhood) in which I always heard it used, the word was always understood to apply to a certain group of people.

This will not do, y'all.

I have known uppity people of all persuasions (mostly the persuasion that they were "all that").

In fact the most uppity person I know of does not live near here and  certainly does not trace his ancestry to the Dark Continent.

I speak of course of Kim Jong Un, the uppity little fat-boy (forgive me, Lord) ruler of North Korea.

I mean, the nerve of this guy, right? The dictator of the absolute WORST place in the world to live and he can described with every word for "uppity" given in the dictionary.

To quote Taggart: "I am depressed."

Makes me want to pray one of those Psalms. 3:7 comes to mind.

But be that as it may, the truth is (given Webster's definition) we have all been guilty of uppitiness at some point.

And in this wicked world there is an over-supply of uppity.

Perhaps a more appropriate Psalm might be the 51st: "Have mercy on me, O God."

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Something Bright and Shiny

...suffer the little children to come unto me....-Mark 10:14b

A joyful sound rings out in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings. It is not the singing or the prayers or the sound of God's Word being faithfully preached, though there are all these.

It is the sound of life. the sound of growth, the voices of babes and infants.

It might be thought to be distracting, but shouldn't it be a reminder of God's blessing that there are young families with young moms and dads committed to raising their babies in the midst of God's worship?

I am too often distracted, I find, in the midst of the Sunday service. But it is not the cries of babies that diverts my attention but my own foolish and wandering mind.

Random thoughts, a word here, a phrase there, spoken or sung during worship starts me drifting.

Nothing, certainly not the restlessness of a two year-old can be as disconcerting as to realize I've missed an important point in the sermon due to my wool-gathering.

A dear Christian friend once shared that she used to go home weeping after struggling through the service with her young child.

Prayers then, for the dedicated parents who desire to raise their precious children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
And continued prayers for myself, that I not be distracted  by bright and shiny things of my imagination from the sustenance I need and seek.